when i was five, loneliness killed my mother.
i'd watch as she'd sleep, her hair spread in a golden,
angelic halo that dead people usually get. and under
her mattress, in a place she probably forgot about, sleeps
a thumbprint photo of a man with sand-colored skin
and burnt brown hair--
one i don't want to remember.
she'd lie in the heat, chalky as an overcast sky,
letting a fervid maine sun warm her shivering
fingers. her hair grew thinner, like Christmas
tinsel carefully taken down the tree in March.
when i was six, my mother found Bruce.
he looked and sounded like a bulldog--a raspy voice
and short, white-blonde hair that seemed to disappear in
the red of his face, his mouth stitched straight as the
horizon. his muscled arms would wrap around her waist
as he fingered her tinsel hair. when his voice started shaking,
getting louder, she'd gather me up and let me shiver under
the purple-red flowers of her comforter.
then she'd slink back to him, trying to extrapolate the softness
in his leathered wrinkles and the calm in his insults, beyond
the tobacco smoke that furled from his mouth.
after long weekends in maryland eavesdropping on whispered arguments
in his toyota and staring at the naked skeletons of birches girlishly
shivering at the edge of baltimore, she married him in
a pink dress that smelled like perfume.
when i was seven, back in the dew-wet of maine grass,
underneath polished blue stars, Bruce hit her to the summered
ground with me cowering on the sidelines. sea salt air drifted in
to catch the waves as she laid still, silent, crying dark velvet
tears into the grass.
Bruce left, still red with whiskey and the taste of my mother's
fears on his lips, not having the wherewithall to deal with
the quiet seeping from the walls.
when i was eight, i found a bush laden with blue hydrangeas as
big as my fists. i stole a tiny flower, peeling off each petal just
to see the way they floated in the wind. i breathed in and out
like seasalt waves, each hydrangea laying its big blue head to
the ground, flapping helpless leaves, the
wisdom teeth in the mouth of a five year old.